Last updated
Foonly, Inc.
Type Private
FoundedJune 7, 1976;46 years ago (1976-06-07) [1]
FounderDave W Poole [2]
DefunctApril 19, 1989 (1989-04-19) [1]
United States
Products Mainframes
Computer hardware
Computer software

Foonly Inc. was an American computer company formed by Dave Poole [2] in 1976, [4] that produced a series of DEC PDP-10 compatible mainframe computers, named Foonly F1 to Foonly F5. [5]


The first and most famous Foonly machine, the F1, was the computer used by Triple-I to create some of the computer-generated imagery in the 1982 film Tron . [2]


At the beginning of the 1970s, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) began to study the building of a new computer to replace their DEC PDP-10 KA-10, by a far more powerful machine, with a funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). [2] This project was named "Super-Foonly", and was developed by a team led by Phil Petit, Jack Holloway, and Dave Poole. [2] [6] The name itself came from FOO NLI, an error message emitted by a PDP-10 assembler at SAIL meaning "FOO is Not a Legal Identifier". [7] In 1974, DARPA cut the funding, and a large part of the team went to DEC to develop the PDP-10 model KL10, based on the Super-Foonly project. [2]

But Dave Poole, with Phil Petit and Jack Holloway, preferred to found the Foonly Company in 1976, [4] to try to build a series of computers based on the Super-Foonly project.

During the early 1980s, after the releasing of their first and only F1, Foonly built and sold some F2, F4 and F5 low cost DEC PDP-10 compatible machines. [4] [2] [5]

In 1983, after the cancellation of the Jupiter project, Foonly tried to propose a new Foonly F1, but it was eclipsed by the SC Group company and their Mars project, and the company never quite recovered, shutting down in 1989. [2]


List of models

Foonly F1
ManufacturerFoonly Inc.
DesignerDave Poole [2]
Release date1978 [4]
Units sold1 [2]
Price$700,000 [5]
Power5 kW [5] @ 110/220V
Front-end DEC PDP-10 KA-10
Operating system FOONEX [5]
CPU 36-bit processor @ 11.1 MHz [5]
Memory Up to 18 MB (4096 x 36 bits) [5]
MIPS 4.5 MIPS [5]

Model MIPS Word SizeFrequencyMemoryPriceBaysPower
Foonly F14.5 MIPS36 bits11.1 MHz 18 MB $700 00045 kW
Foonly F20.5 MIPS36 bits2.8 MHz4.5 MB$150 00010.5 kW
Foonly F41.4 MIPS36 bits8 MHz9 MB$300 00011 kW
Foonly F4B1.8 MIPS36 bits8 MHz9 MB$350 00011.5 kW
Foonly F50.3 MIPS36 bits3.3 MHz2.25 MB$80 0000.50.8 kW

The Foonly F1

The Foonly F1 was the first and most powerful Foonly computer, but also the only one being built of its kind. It was based on the Super-Foonly project designs, aimed to be the fastest DEC PDP-10 compatible, [2] but using emitter-coupled logic (ECL) gates rather than transistor–transistor logic (TTL), and without the extended instruction set. [8] [9] It was developed with the help of Triple-I, its first customer, and began operations in 1978. [4]

The computer consisted of four cabinets:

It was able to reach 4.5 MIPS. [5]

The F1 is mostly famous to have been the computer behind some of the Computer-generated imagery of the Disney 1982 Tron movie, and also Looker (1981).

After that, the computer was bought by the Canadian Omnibus Computer Graphics company, and was used on some movies, such as television logos for CBC, CTV, and Global Television Network channels, opening titles for the show Hockey Night in Canada, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Flight of the Navigator (1986), Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future television series (1987), and MarilynMonrobot. [11]

Other models

Unlike the F1, the other models (F2, F4, F4B, F5) were built with the slower TTL rather than ECL circuits, and housed in a single cabinet, rather than four.

Rather than use DEC's Massbus (or other DEC bus), Foonly developed F-bus, which can work with DEC and non-DEC peripherals. [12]


Foonly described the F2 as "a powerful mainframe at a minicomputer price," "with an average execution speed about 25% of that of the DECSYSTEM-2060." [13]


Standard equipment: [14]


The Foonly machines, which could run the TENEX operating system, came with a derivative thereof, FOONEX. [5]


Tymshare attempted marketing the Foonly line, using the name "Tymshare XX Series Computer Family" [14] of which the Tymshare System XXVI" was the main focus. [15]

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  1. 1 2 "Corporates Wiki, Foonly entry".
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "The New Hacker's Dictionary, by Eric S. Raymond, Guy L. Steele".
  3. "Computing facilities for AI, 1981" (PDF). S2CID   17838082. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Foonly F2 Brochure, 1981" (PDF).
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Foonly Product Overview Brochure
  6. "Dave Dayer, one of the F1 designers, about Foonly".
  7. "Foonly".
  8. "The Foonly F1: The Computer Behind Tron (1982)".
  9. "Dave Dyer, one of the principals behind the F1, Dave Sieg website".
  10. 1 2 "The Foonly F1, Dave Sieg website".
  11. "Moving Innovation : a History of Computer History, Tom Sito" (PDF).
  12. Larry Lettieri (November 1980). "Foonly challenges DEC patents with emulator". Mini-Micro Systems . pp. 15, 17.
  13. "The F2 - A New Flexible Alternative" (PDF).
  14. 1 2 Tymshare (1981). The Tymshare XX Series Computer Family. p. 4.
  15. Tymshare's System XXVI. 1981.